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The Vincent Starrett Collection

Charles Vincent Emerson Starrett (ca. 1886-1974)

Vincent Starrett was a book collector, author, bibliographer, and a Sherlock Holmes scholar. He has been referred to as part of Chicago's "literary renaissance” and has written or edited more than 50 books of essays, criticism, fiction, biography, poetry, and bibliography. It has been said that Starrett's bibliographies on authors such as Arthur Machen, Stephen Crane, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Ambrose Bierce revived their popularity.

Born in Toronto, Starrett moved to Chicago with his family early on and eventually became a crime reporter, feature writer, political analyst, and foreign correspondent for the Chicago Daily News. His work at the Chicago Daily News ended with the publication of his first novel, "Seaports in the Moon" (1928), which was said to be a dominant bid for literary recognition. He also wrote a weekly column called " Books Alive" in the Chicago Tribune for 25 years, influencing the reading habits of millions. During this time he continued to write detective novels, literary essays, poetry, and more.

One of his greatest claims to fame was his fascination with and knowledge of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. In 1933 he wrote an imaginative biography on the fictional character called "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes." He was one of the founders of the Bakers Street Irregulars, a Sherlock Holmes society, and he was a member of the Sherlock Holmes Society in London.

The Starrett Collection at Northern Illinois University Library's Rare Books and Special Collections began as a modest collection of Chicago Renaissance material many years ago. Items in the collection have been purchased over the years by the library or donated by collectors and other libraries. The collection consists of Starrett's novels, bibliographies, essays, poems, correspondence and letters, biographies, autobiographies, and miscellaneous odds and ends such as greeting cards and book plates.

Other libraries holding letters and works of Vincent Starrett include the University of Iowa, University of Minnesota, Henry E. Huntington Library, Lilly Library, Newberry Library, and Knox College. Starrett letters and correspondence can also be found in many library special collection departments within the collections of other authors such as Stephen Crane.

To see if we own particular titles, please search our online catalog and the Starrett Manuscript Inventory (pdf) or Starrett Manuscript Inventory (rich text format).

To search "Books Alive" and other Starrett articles in the Chicago Tribune please search NIU's Chicago Tribune (historical).

Useful reference books about the collection:

Murphy, Michael. Vincent Starrett: In Memoriam: A Tribute. Culver City, CA:Pontine Press, 1974.
Vincent Starrett Collection PS3537.T246 Z72

Ruber, Peter A. The Last Bookman: A Journey into the Life and Times of Vincent Starrett, Author, Journalist, Bibliophile. New York: Candlelight Press, 1968.
Vincent Starrett Collection PS3537.T246 Z8

Starrett, Vincent. Born in a Bookshop: Chapters from the Chicago Renascence. Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1965.
Main Collection & Starrett Collection PS 3537.T246 Z5

Starrett Links